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Busy construction year in the City of Kawartha Lakes supports economic recovery

Click to play video: 'Busy construction year in the City of Kawartha Lakes supports economic recovery' Busy construction year in the City of Kawartha Lakes supports economic recovery
It's going to be a busy year for constructions in the City of Kawartha Lakes. Major capital projects along with several smaller scale upgrades are planned. As Mark Giunta reports, while this sounds like an expensive year, it will actually cost the taxpayer less – Feb 26, 2021

The City of Kawartha Lakes will be a hot zone for construction in 2021 with several major capital projects in the works.

The ongoing Lindsay downtown reconstruction project will continue while a similar, but smaller-scale project will soon be underway in Fenelon Falls.

“From what I hear, they’re starting on March 1 and the plan is to do as much as they can until the May long weekend and take a break until Labour Day,” said City of Kawartha Lakes mayor Andy Letham. “With the traffic and tourism, let people enjoy the tourism and then get back at it after Labour Day and finish it at the end of the year.”

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The project will involve the reconstruction of both underground infrastructure and streetscape along Colborne Street through the heart of the village.

“Just a complete refresh there — roads, sidewalks, benches, street lights. Upgrading it and making it the pretty town we know it is and can be for the next bunch of years,” Letham added.

The project was accelerated to have the work done in 2021 instead of 2022.

READ MORE: Drumming up interest in tourism during coronavirus pandemic in City of Kawartha Lakes

Meanwhile, the construction work in downtown Lindsay is ongoing along Kent Street West.

“We’re about a month ahead of schedule. So hopefully we get good access there in the summer for businesses,” Letham said. “We want to remind everyone that our businesses are open downtown and they should support our local businesses.”

Click to play video: 'City of Kawartha Lakes residents encouraged to ‘shop local’' City of Kawartha Lakes residents encouraged to ‘shop local’
City of Kawartha Lakes residents encouraged to ‘shop local’ – Oct 16, 2020

Another major project that is ongoing is at the Bobcaygeon Beach Park.

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That redevelopment project, which includes outdoor pavilions, docking, washroom facilities and playground structures, began last fall and will take about 18 months to complete.

Letham said the plan is to have a “world-class park for everyone to enjoy.”

The municipality’s chief administrative officer says all three projects were deemed crucial in the economic recovery process from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

“They’re critical,” said Ron Taylor. “Those are the stimulus projects locally that really make a difference. The centerpiece is major redevelopment in two of our larger downtowns.”

On Feb. 16, council approved the operations, water and wastewater and special projects portions of the 2021 budget.

Following the capital budget approval, council headed into deliberations earlier this month with a tax levy increase of 3.84 per cent.

But, after using safe restart funding that was given by the province to further offset forecasted pandemic costs, the tax levy increase fell to only 1.5 per cent, the lowest it has been in a decade.

“We were able to apply different funding, tap into some other reserves we had and a surplus we had from 2020 that we could apply to it. In the end, we could take some of that safe restart funding to offset some costs,” Letham added.

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“We didn’t slash and burn or cut service levels to get there and we didn’t drain all of our funding. We took a nice, balanced approach to this, in my opinion, and we’re going to be in good shape going into 2022 as well.”

READ MORE: Major downtown reconstruction projects in Fenelon Falls and Lindsay likely to go ahead in 2021

Due to the pandemic, staff were given the directive by council to balance the books by the end of 2020 while navigating through the revenue losses and service level changes.

And they did just that.

“Council took the position of taking the $3-million 2019 surplus and putting it entirely in a recovery reserve,” added Taylor. “As we did different work, whether it was internal or external, public-facing, the idea was we could draw on those funds to help recover and reactivate the economy and the community.”

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Other items of note from the budget for 2021 include enhancing services in downtowns and parks such as increased waste collection, portable washrooms and directional signage, the Lake Dalrymple Lake Management Plan, a $1.5 million funding of the Coboconk Wellness Centre project — contingent on other levels of government funding and fundraising, and a $231,000 renovation of the Kawartha Lakes Police Services building evidence room and forensic lab.

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Taylor said staff will return to council in the spring with an updated 10-year financial management plan.

He added staff will continue to look for efficiencies and cost savings this year as ways of managing the budget.

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